The penitential worship of Yahweh (Neh 9:1-9:4)

“Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth upon their heads. Then those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors. They stood up in their place. They read from the book of the law of Yahweh their God for a fourth part of the day. For another fourth, they made confession and worshiped Yahweh their God. Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites. They cried with a loud voice to Yahweh their God.”

The traditional penitential posture was fasting and sackcloth, which was the cheap cloth that things were bundled in. This seems to have been separated from Yom Kippur, but nevertheless much like it. They separated themselves from all foreigners. Then they stood and confessed their own sins as well as the evils of their ancestors. A quarter of the day they were confessing sins and then a quarter of the day they were reading or listening to a reading from the book of the law of Yahweh. 8 of them stood on the Levite steps and cried out to Yahweh. 3 of them were the people who helped explain the law in the preceding chapter, Jeshua, Bani, and Sherebiah. In fact, Bani is mentioned twice, while the others are from the ancestral Levite families that returned. Chenani is only one mentioned here and nowhere else.

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